Heretical Gaming is my blog about my gaming life, featuring small skirmishes and big battles from many historical periods (and some in the mythic past or the far future too). The focus is on battle reports using a wide variety of rules, with the occasional rules review, book review and odd musing about the gaming and history. Most of the battles use 6mm-sized figures and vehicles, but occasionally 15mm and 28mm figures appear too.

Wednesday 17 April 2024

Kampfgruppe Heller: Battle 12, Poland

This is the twelfth action of the Kampfgruppe Heller campaign, my tribute to Just Jack's original 'Kampfgruppe von Klink' campaign. This part of the campaign is loosely based on the Battle of Kutno/Bzura, although this particular game features a German re-deployment move accidentally blundering into a Polish force which has found a gap in the German defensive cordon...

As ever in this series, I am playtesting a set of rules called Gummipanzergrenadier, by John D Salt.

The Forces:

The Poles:
Company Command: 1 x Section, x Truck
Armoured Platoon: 2 x TKS (with 20mm cannon)
2 x Rifle Platoons: 3 x Sections (BAR & bolt-action rifles), 1 x 46mm mortar, 1 x ATR

The Germans:
Company Command: 1 x SMG  section, 1 x Kubelwagen, 1 x Half-track
Panzer Platoon: 2 x PzII
3 x Grenadier Platoons: 3 x Sections (belt-fed LMG & bolt-action rifles), 1 x 50mm mortar, 1 x ATR
(one of the platoons is 1 section short) 

This is effectively an ambush situation by the Poles. In the original game, a Polish ATR was deemed to have fired accidentally, alerting the Germans; but in this game I played it that the Germans would just have to take their chances (also, the observation rules work differently so it would create some weirdnesses with the Germans still not knowing exactly where the Poles were - more on this later).

The Set-Up:

The German column, Panzers in the lead, moving from bottom-right to top-left.

The Poles are in two separate platoons: one is in the woods (centre) about to open fire, supported by the Coy Comd and one of the tankettes (left) - they are tiny!

The other platoon is on the other side of the road, with most of the platoon behind the treeline (centre-right), but with the Platoon commander, a section and the ATR in the woods nearby (centre-left). The other tankette is in support in the rear (top) (squint!)

Another view

The Battle:

This action diverges quite quickly from the original, as the Polish ATR gunner despatches the German armour in very short order indeed!

He and the other ATR gunner try to destroy the Kubel and the halftrack too, but the occupants, 'more scared than hurt', are persuaded to retire swiftly...

The Polish Company Commander looks on with some satisfaction onto the smoking pair of Panzers...

The German infantry shake out into some kind of order and cover; plus a flanking move persuades the Poles in the treeline to try and withdraw - however, they are pinned and suffering casualties in a heavy crossfire, as the Germans in the edge of the woods (left) hit them as they try and cross the gap (top)

On the right, one can see the Germans working around the flank, pinning down the Poles trapped in the open

However, the mad charge of a Polish tankette throws the German infantry into confusion, despite the presence of a German ATR. Two squads have already run-off...

However, one German ATR gunner remembers he is supposed to a mighty Teutonic hero: a fine shot from the other platoon's ATR (edge of wood in foreground) despatches the tankette - the crew must seek quarter from those they had been terrifying moments ago...

The German company commander moves across to try and rally his wavering flanking platoon (right); however, seeing this, the Polish company commander and platoon on the left decide to launch their counter-attack

The German OC kicks his discouraged troops back into action...

Whilst the Polish platoon and tankette assault the left-rear of the lead German platoon, which had been too engrossed in trying to pick off the Poles pinned in the other Platoon (just out of view, top).

The combined threat of the tankette (however imaginary!) and the actual threat of Polish bayonets causes more Germans to run, although most hang on, even if they aren't doing much

More Germans run or become casualties, but they do at least manage to destroy the second tankette via another ATR (extreme-left, edge of woods)

However, the German OC sees there is pretty much no hope now, and not even much point, so he orders a withdrawal

The surviving, chastened Germans move back to their start lines!

Game Notes: 

Okay, that was pretty different! The original had been more-or-less equally one-sided, but in the other direction. However, since the initiative and observation rules work so differently, the Poles were harder to spot and had a somewhat easier time doing the right thing at the right moment. ATRs are reasonably effective in this game at short-ish range and flimsy armour, whereas small-calibre tank guns are by contrast relatively ineffective (medium machine guns on tanks are great though - which makes the Matilda I and the Vickers VIb, for example, much more interesting propositions than usual in games! The German infantry response wasn't too bad, until the charge of the Polish tankettes. 'Armour shock' is a very real thing in these rules, which gives great power to armour (even when it is weak and vulnerable to ATRs...) - it is quite a different way to think of tanks and tankettes, as weapons primarily of 'shock' value against morale... The German infantry did achieve fire superiority and the Polish platoon was in trouble - but its actual losses were quite light, you have to get in close to kill infantry with infantry (usually, and even then it isn't guaranteed). Really interesting stuff and a good fun game.

Models are a mixture of Scotia, H&R, Baccus and GHQ. I have a jeremiad on this subject on The Wargames Website at the moment!

Saturday 13 April 2024

13th April 2024 Hobby Update

I haven't played quite as many games over the last fortnight or so, but I have managed to get a couple of things to the painting table, which are nearing completion.

The painting tray, in all its glory!

The based 6mm stuff are a variety of somewhat speculative things for the Jacobite Rebellions. This isn't too much of a problem since the whole collection has a slightly whimsical air in the first place, with the foundational armies being a British WSS force for the Hanoverians, whilst I mainly use some WotTK Highlanders for the Jacobites. That probably isn't too bad for Killiekrankie, not awful for Sherrifmuir but more the legend than the reality for Culloden. Ho hum. Anyway, these few bases are too round out some of the troops for both sides. The Hanoverians get some combined Highland Independent companies, using Baccus 6mm AWI highlanders with tam o'shanter type bonnets; the Stuarts get two 'non-Highland' Scots' Jacobite units (using the remainder of the AWI highlander pack), plus two 'English' Jacobite regiments, one being the Manchester Regiment and the other being given the semi-fictitious name of the 'Forster Regiment', as the kernel of the English Jacobites who ended up surrendering at Preston to end the first half of the '15. Like the Royal Eccossais unit, the Manchester Regiment is in a WSS-ified version of its uniform, so historicity is not quite the first priority here! I painted the other unit in brown coats, I think from the cover of the book about the Second Battle of Preston. Is there a book which covers the uniforms of all the Jacobite rebellions in sufficient detail to do all the armies? Anyway, a few non-Highland Jacobite foot units in whatever guise will be helpful for some of the battles. I would like to add some English and Lowland Jacobite Horse for the '15 but I am not quite sure how to paint the English, or whether Scots' Covenanter Horse would be 'close enough' for the Lowland Horse.

Sorry, not a great photo here, but just finishing off a few very nice Perry late C15 knights, plus a conversion of a Mahdist body with a Statuesque miniatures female head, for a 'Hammer Horror'-type scenario with a heroine running around in a nighty and a sword pulled from the mansion wall! It looks okay at wargaming-distance...

German WW2 vehicles: PzIVFs from 2d6 Wargaming* to the left in (dark) Panzer Grey - I have only very recently become aware of the differences of opinion between 'darker' Panzer grey and 'lighter, bluer' Panzer grey. I think the darker Panzer grey looks better on the smaller models especially, plus they match the early war tanks I have which are in the Panzer grey/dark brown camouflage schemer.  To the right are some more German motorcycle and sidecar combinations, and some more cars (BMWs?); I didn't have as many as I would have liked for playing some of these WW2 campaign scenarios that I am doing at the minute, so thought I would get in some reinforcements!

Still some more work to do on these Hanomags, but they are nice models! From Baccus.

Hopefully I will get most of these off the tray today or tomorrow. Not sure yet what will replace them, I might have a rummage and see what takes my fancy. I do like the colourful simplicity and elegance of WSS-era soldiers!

Game-wise, my e-mail Napoleonic Italy campaign is drawing towards its climax. Not sure what I will tackle next as a campaign. Apart from that, there are a few battles left to do in 'Kampfgrupper Heller' in Poland; France 1940 is calling my imagination again; there is still lots I want to do in the Neil Thomas-esque vein I have been mining; and I would like to do some Twilight of Divine Right battles soon too. So plenty to be getting on with.

*Incidentally, 2d6 Wargaming seems to be back trading again having been up for sale only a few months back! Strange, but welcome. Will have to have an e-rummage soon. In fact, what I really feel like doing is having a shop for a few books and a few miniatures. Will I resist? Should I even try?!?!

Sunday 7 April 2024

The Road to Saint James' Revisited

 I suppose that indirectly, Donald Featherstone's scenario 'The Road to St. James" is one of the contenders for 'things which started it all', as it is one of the scenarios in his War Games. I was looking for a WW2 scenario that was a bit of a break from my normal fare, in order to test a couple of different things out for Gummipanzergrenadier, in particular I wanted there to be some more powerful weapons and crucially, some engineering tasks. The Road to St.James fit the bill for that, since there was some barbed wire defences, but I souped this up a bit by adding a couple of anti-vehicle minefields. This was to have some quite significant consequences...

The original scenario actually looks quite like a Rapid Fire scenario, to my untrained eye. Each company is maybe 10-20 figures strong. A tank company/squadron is maybe 3-5 tanks strong. Anyway, it featured a battalion of British Guards' infantry supported by some Shermans and anti-tank guns, being attacked by a German Regiment supported by some Panthers, anti-tank guns and off-table artillery (undefined). both forces had some mortars and machineguns too.  In my order of battle, I reduced it one level: a British company group of four platoons, supported by a troop of Shermans, a platoon of 6pdrs,  a platoon of mortars and a platoon of Vickers MMGs. One platoon front was protected with wire, and two ploughed areas had anti-tank mines in them.  The German Regiment became a Panzer Grenadier Battalion, with one company in Hanomags and the rest in trucks, with most of the battalion-level support plus 3 Panthers and some 75mm anti-tank guns, with a battery of 4 x 105mm guns in support.

Rather than use my own tactics, I tried to follow the original tactics, or intent, as best I could.

The Set-Up:

Fir tree hill on the left, Copse hill on the right. The 'embankment' in the original scenario has become Red ridge in this refight (right). Red Farm is at the top, and the village of Charlot (top-right) with a plantation feature in front of it. Because Fir Tree Hill is a somewhat different shape to the original, I added Bald Hill (top-left) to make the terrain a little closer. The whole field slopes downwards a little left-to-right.

Company HQ and 4 Platoon on Fir Tree Hill, with a 6pdr ATG in support; 2 Platoon is in front of the hill beind the wire (top), supported by another ATG.

The view from behind 2 Platoon's position, looking towards Red Farm, occupied by 1 Platoon and 2 Shermans (and commanded by the Company 2iC). The right-hand side of this field contains anti-tank mines.

Red Farm and its defenders.

3 Platoon on Copse Hill, supported by a Sherman (left) and a 6pdr ATG (right); a section of mortars are also in support, with an observer and small team alongside 3 Pl in the woods.

Another view. The near half of this ploughed field contains anti-tank mines.

The Battle:

The Germans led with their armoured stuff on their Right, aiming to concentrate on encircling and taking Copse Hill first, holding back the rest of their force for a later attack on the Left past Red Farm.

"But, before I could say don't drive onto a mine...he drove onto a mine"

The German platoon in the minefield dismounts and advances, whilst the Company Commander moves back out of the ploughed field. He send his second and third platoons left and right flanking, whilst the Panthers hold off. The Brits don't shoot, not wanting to reveal their positions early.

One of the outflanking platoons runs into the barrel of a Sherman, which eliminates it pronto.

The 6pdr on the other side of Copse Hill destroys 3 Hanomags in very short order indeed! The dismounted Panzergrenadiers try to silence it with MG42 fire, but they are in turn silenced very quickly when the Vickers MMG opens up...whose crew are then pinned down by the tripod-mounted MG42 on Red Ridge...

...who in turn get their heads pushed down when the mortar bombs start landing, watched in by the mortar controller in the woods.  Note that the other two Hanomags have retired before they even got into the gunsight of the Sherman... (left). Some German engineers have arrived to try and sort out this minefield too...

They start work, but suffer some accidental casualties and work progresses very slowly

As the right-flanking Panzergrenadiers dismount, they are engaged by British infantry from 3 Platoon, as well as the mortar fire observers...half of the remaining Panzer Grenadiers are cut down in seconds..

I am missing a couple of photos here, not sure why. What happened was that combined HE and machinegun fire from the Panthers, assisted a little by some of the Panzergrenadiers and supports, killed the British mortar control team and persuaded 3 Platoon to pull back into the depths of the wood.

Then everything happened in a few moments: the first Panther cam around to see the Sherman in front of it, which was incapable of harming it. But at that point, the Sherman at the edge of Red Farm opened fire and brewed up the lead Panther! He missed the second Panther though, which promptly despatched the plucky Sherman. At that point, the 3 Platoon PIAT team at the edge of Copse Hill then knocked out the remaining two Panthers in quick succession!

With no-one to spot for them, the British mortars are withdrawing towards Fir Tree Hill (left); however, the Germans are pretty much stuck. Rather than press on and launch the attack with the two motorized infantry companies down the Right (i.e. top), I decided the German commander would probably quit at this point.

Game Notes:

Good fun, and good to get this classic to the table for the first time. A mixture of things did for the Germans, most of which was pure bad luck/good British dice-rolling at key moments. However, there were important structural differences. The most obvious was the minefield, although that was mainly just annoying for the Germans than seriously detrimental.  I think differences in rules philosophy made a more important difference: in Gummipanzergrenadier, anti-tank guns are great because they interact with the observation and accuracy rules in a better way than tanks do. 'Don't be seen' is rule #1 here. Additionally, direct fire weapons are somewhat less powerful than in many WW2 rulesets, whereas artillery is somewhat more useful. This meant that Featherstone's tactics, fairly appropriate for his own scenario, were less good for this game - the Germans should have got their observers into place nice and early (and even better, pre-registered the very obvious targets) in order to make life much more difficult for the British. But that said, there was some good shooting by the British anti-tank gunners, tankers and PIAT operators too!
The engineering rules worked well and were easy to understand. Basically, engineers are 'attacked' by mines and booby-traps (if that is what they are trying to clear) and then roll to succeed with different odds depending upon the difficulty of the task. Trained engineers can therefore do more stuff and are less likely to suffer casualties doing it. Engineering times are only somewhat predictable - they are based on chance, so you can work out how long things might take, but not how long they will take.
Anyway, all good fun and looking forward to giving them another go. What this scenario did teach me is that my WW2 collection is in a bad state; things are mixed up, in the wrong boxes, some stuff I  got second-hand I have never got around to finishing off the painting, the models aren't arranged in meaningful chunks so I can just quickly pull out a company or battalion - this is especially true of the infantry support platoons and companies, I am noticing. I should make some more distinctive FOO and FAC and MFC bases. I am also not quite sure I am organizing things quite right for these rules (my troops are basically configured for WRG 1925-1950). I am not quite sure whether platoon commanders should be 'independent' and attach themselves to a section as and when they need to, or whether one of the rifle sections in a platoon should always be considered a command section. And I need to work out whether a 1944 Panzergrenadier squad should basically be two belt-fed LMGs and a rifle group, or just the LMGs. Anyway, some few modelling things to ponder!

Models were a mixture of Baccus, GHQ and H&R. Buildings were from Leven and Battlescale, with walling from Baccus.


Friday 5 April 2024

Half-a-Million Views

Sometime today this blog got its 500,000th view. Okay, it was probably a Chinese-based bot rather than real wargamer but still, I know several genuine gamers have read this blog at some point, so we can count that as a win.
Seriously, first of all, very many thanks to everyone who has read any of my posts here, and even more so to those who have also taken the time to comment or link to other parts of the blogosphere. It is very much appreciated, whether it is a kind word, an insightful comment, a recommendation or a correction, or a mixture of them all. And I think, without exception, every comment has fallen into those categories.
The Most Viewed Posts have been:

I think that gives a fair snapshot of some of the themes that this blog has ended up being about: simple games, small boards, fast play, campaigns, smaller figures for bigger games, solo play, a wide variety of periods, mining old magazines, equal emphasis on new and old rulesets. Some of that was by design, some of that emergent: in particular, the themes of small boards and fast play have partly been a reaction to circumstance, partly to changing preferences, partly to changed foundational ideas. On this blog, the game is the thing: I like the models and the colour and the display, but there are other people out there who do that so much better! But I think overall the aesthetic quality of my games has tended to drift up over time.

I think looking back it is only a pity I didn't get more games in. Some gaps were due to work, a few to illness, a few to family commitments. But a couple of other periods were just dry spells. I think I have got a little better over the years at identifying the things that stop me playing, and overcoming them: because, I rarely get to the end of a game and feel I wasted my time. And that is surely a good sign. Other higher level regrets are that it is clear that my painting hasn't been all that efficient, i.e. although I have been not bad at getting armies finished, not every army has really got to the table enough to justify the efforts on it. Things that stand out here are my 6mm Medieval Arab army, my 6mm Wars of the Roses armies, 6mm WW2 Russians and US, 15mm Moderns, 15mm WW2, 28mm fantasy, 28mm science fiction, 28mm Napoleonics, 1/4800 naval, 1/600 WW2 aircraft...not saying I have never got these things to the table, but I am saying that I probably haven't got enough out of them so far. Perhaps that will change in the future and perhaps I also need to think about what steps will make that happen, and take them. It should in any case make me really cautious about expanding into new periods. As soon as my youngest son is old enough, I should perhaps think of passing some things on straight away, assuming he is still very interested. On the other hand, I have had so much play out of my WSS armies! If I had know then what I know now, perhaps I wouldn't even have bothered with Napoleonics...😊

Are there any 'missing' things? On one level, the answer will always be 'loads' but that matters to me...maybe something colonial? But rather than having lots of separate Colonial-era armies, I think I might just like one or two armies that can be used to proxy for other things. I just have to decide what that might be! Otherwise, I don't really have Chariot Wars armies (although I guess I could use Ancient Britons for these...), or many spaceships, or C20 naval stuff. 

Anyway, what of the future of the blog? For the present, it is steady as she goes, although with some hopes of having a little more writing time in the future, so more games, more reviews, more discussions. Next project I think is to get more of my house rules properly written up and added as pages to the blog, there are a few games or rulesets waiting for this treatment. 

Thanks again for taking the time to stop by, read, comment, link and ecncourage. It has been fun, a nice part of my hobby life and I hope just sometimes a little bit helpful or encouraging to other gamers.

Alcolea - Neil Thomas-esque

As well as a 'proper' test of the Alcolea scenario (see link for more of the background details), I used the base scenario to construct another Neil Thomas-esque scenario. Again, I made this a more 'generic horse & musket' game rather than sticking to its Napoleonic origins. The high-level objectives of the game are the same though: the Franco-Jacobite Spanish forces must either seize the crossing or defeat the opposition army - in this case, a Dutch force. The Dutch force is mainly poorly-trained, with a small cadre of trained troops; the Franco-Spanish forces are trained, with an elite battalion included. 

As usual, I used the Polemos: Ruse de Guerre rules. 


The Forces:

Franco-Spanish-Jacobites: 8 bases of Infantry (1 base Well-Trained), 3 bases of Dragoons, 1 base of 8pdr Foot Artillery
Dutch: 10 bases of Infantry (8 bases Poorly-trained), 1 base of Cavalry, 1 base of 8pdr Foot Artillery

The Set-Up:

Very similar to the 'main' scenario, changed into a slightly more representational terrain on a square 2'x2' board, but otherwise pretty similar I think. The Franco-Spanish are approaching from bottom-right.

The advancing Franco-Spanish

One part of the Dutch force, on the hill to the flank

And the other part, guarding the bridge and town. The barricades are represented by another 'urban area' on the top end of the bridge.

The Battle:

French infantry, supported by artillery, get ready to storm the bridge

A wider shot: Spanish infantry are positioned along the road to help protect the flanks; the Frech Dragoons are switching position and riding down the road (left) to isolate the Dutch on the hill

But considering attack to be the best form of defence, they storm the hill!

The French making slow-going against the Scots and Swiss in Dutch pay by the bridge

However, the Spanish, despite suffering quite heavy losses of their own, including one battalion which has routed, have caved in the Dutch flank on the hill

Still it is a bridge too far for the French...

However, excpet for a knot of infantry and cavalry at the far end of the hill, the Spanish are triumphant and the Dutch are in flight!

And it is only a matter of a few more minutes before the entire Dutch wing is broken

After a little more desultory firing, the Dutch commander withdraws, deciding not to contest the bridge any further since the loss of his Army's right wing.

Game Notes: 

Another Thomas-esque game which worked pretty well. Doing these scenarios back-to-back shows how little one loses in the more simplified scenario. The loss isn't 'nothing', but it is pretty small. The Dutch were a bit unlucky: if they hadn't failed their army morale test, tactically they were still in quite strong position around the bridge, with better troops in a better position. However, c'est la guerre and Polemos is going to punish the 'Spanish' (i.e. the Dutch, in this refight) for having that kind of risky deployment, which allows catastrophic success against a weaker wing to help defeat the stronger. Also, Ruse de Guerre as a baseline makes higher ground less strong a factor than in Polemos: General de Division...although how much that matters also depends on choices you make about troop quality...
In any case, all good fun: I commend this approach to the house!

Figures by Baccus 6mm, buildings by Leven.